Coleen Donnelly

Corporate Chef, K-12

Coleen Donnelly

Chef Coleen’s career has spanned many sectors of the culinary world over the past 25 years. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, she has cooked in numerous restaurants, representing cuisines as diverse as American Southern, French, Regional Pan-Asian (as co-owner/chef) and Regional Russian. As a member of the culinary team at the private Ross School in the Hamptons and later as a private chef in the Hamptons, she learned how to cook for both kids and the “rich and famous.” She has taught many culinary classes and loves to turn people on to cooking.

For over a decade, Chef Coleen worked as a K-12 culinary specialist, shifting focus in the nation’s public schools to healthy and sustainable models utilizing scratch cooking. One of her roles at InHarvest is to work with school-nutrition operators across the nation to demonstrate how whole grains help satisfy USDA nutrition guidelines and how to incorporate them successfully.

When she is not traveling, Chef Coleen focuses on sustainability, seasonality and cooking dinner at home most nights in San Francisco.

What’s your favorite music to listen to in the kitchen?

I have a love/hate with music in the kitchen. I tend to get pretty wrapped up when I’m cooking, and I find music a distraction. That said, when everything is going well and I can start coasting through what I am doing, a little Earth, Wind & Fire or something funky and upbeat like that can be just the ticket.

What lesser-known grain do you think chefs should be paying attention to?

There are over 136,000 rice varieties stored in the International Rice Bank in the Philippines. As chefs, we’ve only scratched the surface.

Sum up your approach to creative culinary in 5 words or less.

Keep it simple and balanced.

What’s the next “hot” thing for diners?

I just ate at a conveyor belt sushi restaurant. It was brilliant.

What is your favorite type of cuisine?

I love Southeast Asian food. Vietnam blew me away.

Do you have a go-to kitchen tool?

A sharp chef’s knife.

Where do you go for culinary inspiration?

Travel. I always say I’ll go anywhere once. Saveur Magazine is a good resource, too. The global articles tell a story about the food and transport you to the place. Other chefs inspire me as well.

What is your favorite grain to work with?
I love our line of puffed products: rice, quinoa, amaranth, sorghum.

They check all the boxes. They are flavorful, crunchy, packed with nutrients and just plain fun. I’ve elevated my baking game since I started working with them.

What defines you as a chef?
Authentic Bold Flavors

In some circles, I’m known for practical K-12 solutions. Outside of that, my cooking style tends to center around authentic, bold flavors. I’m classically trained, which I draw on. But I lean towards other more exciting flavors and cuisines.

Coleen Donnelly